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Mohamad Faizuan Mat 1, Sylvester Wielding Jussem 2, Mohamad Zamhari Abol Hassan3 and Hishamuddin Siri4

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak


Visual art scene and their surrounding communities have failed to work cooperatively to address art knowledge
development issues. Fortunately, some visual artists and public universities have begun to change and support
towards art knowledge development and their communities. We believe that art can bridge people together and
develop art knowledge among the community. We also believe in active participation and by giving it back to
them. However, what are the mechanisms to bring art to the society and what is the benefit that we can offer to
the society? This paper highlights the roles of art in benefiting towards our community. Samples of our
curatorial works that emphasized community and art knowledge development in previous project will be

Keywords: Art Knowledge; Art and Community; Bridging Art; Knowledge Development; Community Project;
Gives Back

In this increasingly challenging world, we often hear about natural disasters and other
disasters. It raises fear and becomes a threat to the society. However, in other words, we
forget that the biggest catastrophe in the world is social disasters. They are many causes for
social disaster. Social change of the world has become one of the reasons. Family, social,
economic and political issues of the world are making people lost its humanity. For those who
experience mental illness with no medication look forward to religion. On the other hand, the
alternative medicine is through art. Speaking about art, we are not referring towards individual
participation. Moreover, we are not referring to (for-profit making) institution. We refer to
those who are willing to contribute to the society and the development of art knowledge. Why
art? Who are the community? What is the role of art? Pursuant to Mat (2017) that there is a
scarcity in presentation of art knowledge development through art in Malaysia. Perhaps, due
to the inaccurate methods of presenting knowledge through visual arts or not to eligible
audiences. Therefore, the importance of art knowledge and its contribution towards
community development will be highlighted.


1.1 Why Art?

As (Pooke, 2008) explains a broader definition of art encompasses global activity, which
produces work with aesthetic value including performance, visual art, architecture and
filmmaking. “For example, architecture has always had a close connection to painting,
sculpture and drawing, two instances being classical revival in the eighteenth and early
nineteenth centuries and the Bauhaus aesthetics of the 1930s which frequently integrated fine
art with design, craft and architecture” (Pooke, 2008, p. 5). However, in contemporary world/
art play various roles in community welfare. Art does not carry meaning/beauty alone but it
also as a connector or key for community development. Why art? People are very fond to art
although there are some difficulties for them to understand. Visual art does not depend on
gallery anymore. Visual art can be outside the gallery and leveraging the community in many
aspects. Visual art need to be versatile where it can be anywhere, easy to set up and realized
an activity that we can bring the community together. Pursuant to Crawshaw, (2015) that
contemporary art practices more specifically focused on engaging people than making
physical work, are variously termed „new genre‟ (Lacy, 1995), „participatory‟ or „socially-
engaged‟. Therefore, in understanding of art as a process of engaging people, art and its
contribution plays a vital role. People in the art fields such as artists, curators and the rest
should contribute to society and not solely focus on art object creation. Contemporary art
historians propose participatory art as having the capacity to support discourse that enables us
to imagine our world anew (Bishop, 2012; Meskimmon, 2011). In addition, art is not merely
skills (psychomotor) but it can stimulate our mind to think and discourse. Thus, these kinds of
activity that we should bring to community hopefully would enhance and develop better

1.2 The Community

Who are the community? Are they important? Community here is the people who are not
involved directly or indirectly with art. People who needs some kinds of education in art. The
community can be the people in rural areas, school pupils, public employees, private sector
etc. According to Crawshaw, (2015) that art has much to offer to rural community
development and art „reads‟ community. In addition to bring art to community, we can also
help them to identify local art product that can contribute to economic significance. Perhaps,
people do not really engage with art through art discourse. However, through various
activities such as mural art, performing art, participants or community become connected and
with the atmosphere. We strongly believe that communities will always-welcoming art and
the talented people to educate them about art and to appreciate arts.

2.3 The Role of Art and Artist

Art can benefit all areas in the world. However, we need to know what is our priority or
purposes/objectives that we create art. According to Mat (2013) that art is not just a matter of
beauty only but it can be delivered in certain kind of knowledge. Related to John Dewey, we
understand „art‟ as music, visual, performance and literary work (1934, p. 77); and „artistic‟ as
a term to describe activity that utilizes art's processes for making work as a mode of
exploration. In addition to Mat (2017) that visual art is a unique way to share the knowledge.
The role of artists is to deliver certain kinds of knowledge to the society through their artwork.
Where, we think that to have a community project can be one of the methods to deliver the
knowledge. Visual art can provide positive impact towards community development. Through
creative and innovative activities, our community will be further improved. When we
discussed about the artist and their contribution towards society, it is still in the limbo. Artists
and art are precursors to the formation of knowledge covering various fields such as
sociology, psychology, technology, science and much more. Being the artist with the
mentality to gain from the sale of paintings alone will not contribute to the formation of
knowledge. Pursuant to Nasir (2003b) the educational purposes is actually more to the
formation of knowledge and not a taught to become rich. Typical Malaysian mentality is to
think about wealth, fame and profit rather than the knowledge that need to be develop.

'Art for Society', that is championed by an average of artists in Malaysia. Produce work to
meet the desire of society and for them. However, the society still cannot understand the work
of art and the most miserable when they are assuming this is a work of vain. As Badrolhisham
(2003, p.90) explain that the society still think the work of art is 'stupid' work and artists are
'crazy' elitist. It is worse when the artists themselves are still trapped in the existing of
ambiguities reality art. Produce works that provide more benefits and meet the tastes of the
society based on reason "art for society '. His intention is to see the gap between the art
knowledge and the art objects. With that, we try to initiate our community project to assess
the problem. Thus, it is hope to contribute to the community with our expertise and

This paper studies and reviews five community projects that been conducted in 2016 and
2017. These community projects involved with curatorial and research based on several
activities. The curatorial project- a participatory research was opted for this study. The crucial
goal for this project is to set up a connection between facilitator (art) and local communities.
Therefore, the researcher mainly acts more as a supporter than a director, who encourages
participants (Stringer, 2014). There are three main types of the activities listed below. All
activities been documented with video and photography. Additional interview conducted as
a) Mural Project
b) Art Workshop
c) Art Competition
The mural art has conducted because it is one of the popular and becoming phenomenon
around Malaysia. It is easy to attract people and community nearby. In addition, art workshop
such as acrylic workshop, ceramic throwing, and art market conducted. A small art
competition to attract children conducted to cultivate their interest towards art.
Table 1: Collected Data according to projects and objective

Community Project Venue Date Objectives

UNIMAS Gives Back SK Bako, Kuching 14-16 April 2016 Sharing Knowledge

UNIMAS Gives Back SK Paon, Lundu 10-11 October 2016 Sharing Knowledge

Borneo International Frog Race Gunung Gading Wild Park 28-29 April 2017 Sharing Knowledge
Lundu, Sarawak

Street Mural & Art Bazaar Waterfront, Kuching 14-16 May 2017 Sharing Knowledge

Mural Art Borneo 744, Bintawa 25-27 August 2017 Sharing Knowledge
Kuching, Sarawak


Table 2 summarizes the finding of selected project in the five main venues, derived from the
data collected. The projects located in the visible area where it freely assessed by the public.
The first project was “Art 4 Community”: Mural Art and T-Shirt Printing Workshop in SK
Bako, Kuching Sarawak where the mural involved school pupils. In addition, the parents also
involved with t-shirt printing activities. The project also emphasized not only the skills itself
but also the elements of entrepreneurial from t-shirt printing workshop. The knowledge
sharing involved on how to generate money from t-shirt printing. The second attempted with
school was in SK Paon, Lundu, which has been, conducted similar activities with SK Bako.
Therefore, the comparison study between these two schools and analyses the data. The pupils
from the school have benefits in term of mural knowledge, skills and basic entrepreneur
regarding the subject.

The third project is a small program under Borneo International Frog Race, organized by
UNIMAS and Sarawak Forestry Corporation Sdn.Bhd. A drawing competition and watercolor
workshop have been conduct in this project. Based on this program, some of the pupils or
participants have improved their level of confidences in art such as presentation and
communication skills.

Fourthly, the project was dealing with bigger audiences where it involved matured audiences.
The project can be joined by everybody. Project called Street Mural and Art Bazaar that have
been introduced about art and its roles to the public. A 125 feet long mural has produced and
art sales. A few activities based on art to attract and communicate with the community have
conducted and the audience was excited with it. As a result, art knowledge transfer and
sharing session can be a serious business. Based on previous project, the communities are
ready to join and participate. Thus, another mural project in Borneo 744, Kuching that
emphasized teamwork and art communication among community has executed.

Table 2: Findings of the community project

Community Objectives Mechanism Outcome(s)

SK Bako, Kuching Art Knowledge sharing/ Mural Art/ Awareness/ Art knowledge
(Pupils and Parents) Community serving Workshop perceived/ Basic entrepreneur

SK Paon, Lundu Art Knowledge sharing/ Mural Art/ Mural knowledge/ Skills
(Pupils and Parents) Community serving Workshop perceived/ Basic entrepreneur

Borneo International Art Knowledge sharing/ Art Competition/ Improve level of confidence/
Frog Race (Pupils) Community serving Workshop Skills perceived/ Art

Waterfront, Kuching Art Knowledge sharing/ Mural Art/ Mural knowledge/ Skills/
(Public Audiences) Community serving Art Bazaar Awareness/ Basic entrepreneur

Borneo 744, Kuching Art Knowledge sharing/ Mural Art/ Skills perceived/ Art
(Public Audiences) Community serving Awareness

Fig 1: SK Bako Community Project ‘Art 4 Community (a) & (b) Mural, (c) & (d) T-shirt Printing Workshop

Fig 2: SK Paon, Lundu Community Project (a) (b) (c) & (d) (Mural Art)

Fig 3: International Borneo Frog Race (a) (b) Art Competition

Fig 4: Waterfront, Kuching "Street Mural & Art Bazaar (a) Mural in Progress (b) Group photo
with participants (c) Customers bought art from art bazaar (d) Tourists purchased artwork
from art bazaar

Fig 5: Borneo 744, Bintawa: Kuching Art Mural

(Source: Author‟s archive, 2016-2017)

Based on methodology, Fig1-5 are five projects that have been conducted to promote art and
cooperatively engagement with the community. The objectives of all project that been done
to share knowledge in art to community. On the other hand, it is to expose a non-art
community to visual art and its contribution towards community development. With all that,
the goals have achieved and somehow improved their knowledge in art.

Fig 6: Illustration of Government Support towards Community Project

Fig 6 shows the suggestion of government support towards implementation of community

project. The public art institution, departments and agencies can encourage their staffs to
involve with community project. For instance, fund and grants needed to realize a community
project. Visual art also plays a vital role to the development of sophisticated society. Through
Transformasi Negara 50 (TN50), the government emphasizes on health and wellness, rise of
megacities due to urbanization and infrastructures. Bear in minds, visual art also need to be
included in the agenda to enrich our art, culture and human civilization. Otherwise, our art,
culture and heritage will stay behind. The project could be a mural, art workshop with specific
skills that can contribute to entrepreneur, economic. For example, a three days‟ workshop on
t-shirt printing. In the end of the workshop or after the workshop, participants can produce
their own t-shirt and sell it. An art exhibition needs audience (higher level of thinking) who
can appreciate the curated artwork. Hence, there are also need of special attention to non-art
community in the rural area. However, the projects need a support from the government.
Therefore, the starting point to serve the community and give back in terms of art awareness,
skills, experience and knowledge is an entry point to formation of art knowledge

In summary, the purpose of incorporating community with art is to contribute to the
development of knowledge in art among them. Table 2 above shows that there is contribution
in term of awareness, knowledge in art, skills and elements of entrepreneur. Nevertheless, this
study found that the role of art involved so much physical aspects: communication, teamwork,
brings knowledge to community and expose them towards visual art activities. It is not solely
aesthetics but community should exposed first with foundation of art before proceeding to the
next level. In addition, the study shows the involvement with community to transfer art
knowledge is an entry point to formation of art knowledge development. It is a high time for
everybody in the art field to bring art to community. In facts, these kinds of mechanism or
activities also responding to the government call regards to Transformasi Negara 50 (TN50).
Where, it is a plan for Malaysia to be a developed nation. With that, the community needs to
be creative and innovative. Nowadays, people do not really like to go to museum to see and
appreciate art. Thus, it is our responsibility to bring art to community as one of the mechanism
to development of art knowledge. Through the projects, the beneficial elements, which is not
only covers in social, economic aspect but it also contributes to moral and positive vibes. We
believed in being involved with community, we can bridge art and community. Thus, it is an
entry point to the formation of art knowledge.


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